"It's a good time to sit down with kids and establish
some guidelines," says Detweiler. Depending on their ages,
you can touch on how much they can spend, what they can expect and
what they can do to help others, she says. "And maybe even
give them extra chores to earn money for holiday spending."
Don't forget about the rest of the family. Did last
year's spending get out of control? Before the
holiday music hits the airwaves, talk with relatives
about this year's gift policies, says Foreman.
Consider trading names, making charitable donations
in honor of each other, simply sending cards or
baked goods or organizing a gift-free potluck
a special moment.
Want to enjoy dinner with your spouse at that
superexclusive (and costly) restaurant during
the holiday season? Or make a holiday weekend
of it at that special bed and breakfast? If you
make the reservations and start setting aside
the money now, "you've planned for it, you're
not just putting it on the credit card,"
your holiday travel.
If you're opting for a high-traffic destination,
a cruise or an international jaunt, book those tickets
and hotel rooms early, says Edward Hasbrouck, author
of "The Practical Nomad." When it comes
to international or popular options, "you save
money by doing it now," he says.
up on supplies.
What's the one thing (other than cash) that you
never have too much of at the holidays? Time.
Buy candles, glass or crystal items, ribbon, faux
greens, wreath forms, and other items now when
you see a good price, says Smith. Then in a few
months when it's time to deck the halls, decorating
will be quick and easy.
The selection is better earlier. Plus, having time
to search for those supplies also gives you the
chance to stretch your imagination. Start looking
at inexpensive store merchandise with an eye toward
the holidays, says Smith. One example: Chinese
lanterns or paper umbrellas look Christmasy in
"The bottom line is: Be creative,"
back to your community.
While food banks typically get half their donations in November
and December, the need is especially acute during the summer, says
Bill Bolling, executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
"The majority of people we feed are women and
children," says Bolling, "and the kids have been out of
school all summer."
You can find your local food bank at Second
Harvest's Web site.
Likewise, in the fall the Salvation
Army is helping kids with back-to-school clothes
and supplies. With their year-round schedule of
serving people through youth programs, care for
the sick and elderly, substance abuse counseling
and providing shelter or education, the opportunities
for donating throughout the year can still count
as holiday gifts, says Melissa Temme, public relations
director for the Salvation Army.
"If you're looking for a way to give back but
can't afford to do it all at once, give monthly
gifts of financial donations, volunteer or in-kind
support in the name of a friend or family member
and surprise them at Christmastime with the total
support you've given to the community in their
name during the year," Temme says. "Many
charities have a way to help you package this
kind of gift."
Your holiday-inspired generosity also
might pay you back a bit in the form of a tax
deduction for your donations. While the tax
savings won't show up until you file your return
next year, you can set aside the money then for